Rantings, Reviews

Firewalls Killing the good programs (A Guide to Internet Security.)

It sounds like the contradiction, but the fact remains that if you are too paranoid you’re going to end up hurting yourself. Just like any other person I’m hesitant of the internet and its viruses and hackers. Nowadays if you want to be safe you have to have the following:

1- An anti-virus application.

2- An anti-spyware application

3- A firewall (this is in addition to the Windows firewall.)

Some programs are handy, and have all these wrapped up in one package. The famous brands AVG, Norton, F-Secure, McAffee and BitDefender are very good if you pay for the security (AVG does have a free version which is also helpful). I on the other hand have to make a plan, and look for protection that will be good, cost-effective and (for the most part legal).

In this I hope to provide advice to internet and LAN users, to keep the viruses out. Online crime has grown more because our culture is becoming a global ‘wired’ community. We are using the internet to earn an income, shop for necessities, entertain ourselves, and network with acquaintances and friends. The point is that we are useless without some form of keyboard in our hands.

Before I start with an entirely new debate, here is some advice on Anti-viruses

McAfee (above)

An Anti-virus (keeping the baddies out)

This is essential for every computer user. If you aren’t connected to the internet, then you should still have an anti-virus program on your computer, because sooner or later your annoying teenage sister will come plug in a memory stick to put new songs into iTunes.

My Golden Rule for Computer Safety: “Don’t trust any unknown hardware that interfaces with your computer.”

This ranges from copied CDs, DVDs, flash drives, external hard drives, and so on. Teach yourself to do a habitual scan (with whichever anti-virus you have) of whatever you’re plugging into your computer. If you don’t know what it is…scan it. Another extra feature that helps is if you turn on hidden files in the folder options menu. If you have Windows XP this is how you do it:

My Computer > Tools > Folder Options > click the View tab

There will be a list of different options, click the section labeled ‘Hidden files and folders’ and then select the options to show hidden files. This isn’t a fool proof way to stop a virus, but it is common for viruses to come in as ‘hidden’.

Adjusting computer settings will help, but it is crucial you have an anti-virus program. I’m not going to label one brand in particular, but rather will show what to look for in your anti-virus package. Here are some questions you should ask:

– How well-known is this brand? Do they have a legitimate website with helpful information, and do I know other people that use it?

– Is it for free? Some software comes with trial versions that may last for a limited period. If it is shareware, make sure it doesn’t expire (like the AVG Free edition). It sounds stupid, but small things can trip us up.

– Is it update-able? Viruses are created and circulated everyday, make sure that if you aren’t connected to the internet, you can still retrieve updates to ward off incomings threats from external hardware.

– What does the package include? Some anti-viruses come with anti-spyware and firewalls. This is useful to know if you are installing additional protection. The tricky part of using more than one security program, is getting them to work with each other.

– Does this program use up too much RAM? Some program are very thorough, and this means they will be ‘semi-scanning’ you computer to protect it from threats. Norton, for example is a trusted, and very good program to use, but I would not recommend it to users with small amounts of RAM.

– Does this program protect me? Keep your ears out if you hear colleagues and friends complaining about it. No software is 100% reliable I’m afraid. If you do a little research you can find something pretty foolproof.

If you can conquer most or all of these questions, then (in my opinion) you have yourself a really good program to use on your PC. Now onto a less harmful, but more irritating threat…Spyware.

Anti-Spyware (crushing the peeping-toms)

This is a lesser known form of a virus, although they can become harmful to your computer. Spyware is exactly what the word says, it’s a bug that creeps in to your computer and will steal your information, link you to foreign websites, download unwanted images, and sends off anonymous emails. Most of the time they aren’t as malicious as viruses, but they are a threat and an annoyance.

How do you find a good Spyware program? Well you can ask the same questions I suggested for anti virus. Do your research and make sure its legitimate, effective and efficient. It’s often good to have a Spyware program as well as your standard antivirus. The trick now, is to make sure that that two don’t conflict.

The same also applies with antivirus programs. A friend of mine told me that he uses two antivirus programs to be extra safe (Norton and AVG). He says that all incoming threats get eliminated, because the one program will pick up what the other may not. It’s a good theory, but at the same time you have to keep in mind that your programs are eating up your resources.

Firewalls (stopping the electronic river)

A firewall is one of the best security measures to use. It stops your computer from being accessible, and therefore vulnerable to attacks. If you are on any kind of computer network I advise that you use one.

– What is it?

A firewall is a virtual traffic controller. If you are connected to the internet it controls which programs access the internet, and whatever comes in. It doesn’t protect you from viruses, but can limit your exposure to them..

-Why do I need one?

The more protection…the better. It isn’t as essential as an anti-virus but can reduce annoyances as well as potential threats. For example, assume if you have some spyware lurking on your computer and your anti-spyware hasn’t picked it up. A firewall won’t delete it, but it can stop it linking to the internet and slowing down your bandwidth.

Firewalls are not only useful for the internet but also with a LAN (Local Area Network). This would be an office setup, a pc gaming tournament, or any place where there are four or more computers. If you are sharing information, you can choose who sees it.

Firewalls are not only for experts, there are user-friendly versions out there. ZoneAlarm is one firewall that comes to mind, that can help those who are new in the game.

The Danger…

This would be the reason I used the title I did. The danger with firewalls is they can become harmful to your own computer. If you aren’t used to using one, find a propeller head to help you out. It may block programs that help run your computer, but your firewalls reads as ‘unknown’.

My apologies for the emotive title. Firewalls don’t really kill anything, they just block/stop/control/manage the stream of information with in your computer, and when it interfaces with another. All comments (or advice on Internet Security) are welcome.



2 thoughts on “Firewalls Killing the good programs (A Guide to Internet Security.)

  1. Spyware can contribute to identity theft by recording your credit card numbers and other personal information. And as if the threat of identity theft isn’t enough, these Spyware and Adware programs can also cause your PC to crash. Spyware has been identified as the top security threats to computers using the Microsoft Windows operating systems.

  2. I have been using computer’s for ages, and work as a Programmer / Web Developer for a living.

    I use AVG (Which, since Version 8, is also an Anti-Spyware Program), and most likely surprisingly to most – No firewall.

    Now, you’d think which me spending uncountable hours online, and a (Mostly) Permanent Internet Connection, I’d NEED A Firewall.

    The reason I don’t, you ask? Simple – I keep everything Updated, and don’t download stupid things.

    To make sure the first applies to you, download Secunia’s PSI (http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/), and scan – Then sit down, and carry on Fixing till the Program hit’s 100% – This might take awhile, as you might be unaware of all the outdated rubbish that sits on your PC 🙂

    As for the second one… Well… Only download well-known products – You’d be surprised how many Programmers have no problem creating Free Software (See http://www.openoffice.org/ for an example – A completely free replacement for the Microsoft Office Suite, with developers who actually care about the community :p)

    MadPoet? Two things about the article…

    1 – Changing away from a nice big easy-to-read font 1/3rd of the way through is irritating.

    2 – 2nd Paragraph – “and (for the most part legal).” – Should be “and (for the most part) legal.”

    Lastly, before I go – My one (Interesting) piece of advice – Stay away from the following two pieces of software:

    1.) Internet Explorer (Unless for Windows Updates) – Use Firefox or Opera Instead

    2.) Norton Anything – It causes more problems than it solves.

    Anything else, don’t hesitate to contact me – My e-mail address can be found on my site which you can get to by clicking on my name 🙂

    Enjoy your day!

    – Reelix

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